Cree language shines down on Saskatoon's Broadway Avenue with new public art piece

A new public art installation shines down on Saskatoon’s Broadway Avenue, a red urban light sculpture that captures the essence of treaty and reconciliation.

The temporary art installation 'reflects the sacred and ritualistic space of Treaty 6'

River and Sky shines down on Saskatoon's artsy Broadway Avenue. (City of Saskatoon )

A new temporary public art installation shining down on Saskatoon's Broadway Avenue aims to capture the essence of reconciliation, its creators say.

It's a red urban light sculpture called River and Sky, or nipiy mîna sîpiy in Cree.

"It looks unique because it's the language of the people of this land," said performance artist Joseph Naytowhow, a member of Sturgeon Lake First Nation and one of the co-creators of the artwork.

The Cree syllabics for the words 'river and sky' shine down on Saskatoon's busy Broadway Avenue. (City of Saskatoon)

He created the light sculpture along with English artist Tony Stallard and Cree writer Kenneth T. Williams.

Placed high up on the north-facing wall of the Saskatchewan Craft Council, it shows the words "river and sky" spelled out in Cree syllabics.

It's meant to be a "poetic site-specific artwork that reflects the sacred and ritualistic space of Treaty 6," according to a media release about the art project from the City of Saskatoon.

"Settlers need to embrace this relationship that we have in a positive way, a loving way, a kind way, and [a] caring, respectful way," said Naytowhow.

Symbol of treaty and reconciliation 

To see the Cree symbols captured in modern neon, high above a busy city street brings both joy and sadness to the performance artist's heart.

"The thing that doesn't make me feel great is that I can't actually read syllabics," he said.

The artwork is described as a 'poetic site-specific artwork that reflects the sacred and ritualistic space of Treaty 6.' (City of Saskatoon)

In that sense, the sculpture also offers a reminder that preserving Indigenous language and culture is vital as Canada moves toward reconciliation, he said.

With files from Saskatoon Morning